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New Plumbing and Drainage Act

New laws for plumbing & drainage

Following a review of the plumbing and drainage regulations, the Queensland Government has now passed the new Plumbing and Drainage Act 2018. The Act focuses on improving public health and safety, by putting greater emphasis on ensuring that only qualified people carry out plumbing and drainage work.

Below we outline the key changes brought about by the new Act.

New licence classes

New occupational licences will be established for mechanical services, and there will be classes of licence to cover the different kinds of work to be done and the different qualifications required. The Government specifically referred to air conditioning and to medical gases, and we understand that the new licence classes will include the following:

  • Medical gases, for example in hospitals, medical facilities and dentists' surgeries;

  • Refrigeration and air conditioning (unlimited design);

  • Refrigeration and air conditioning (limited design); and

  • Plumbing mechanical services.

Anyone currently doing this work without an occupational licence will need to obtain a licence, either by completing the required qualifications or by showing that they have the right skills and experience. The qualifications needed for each licence class will be published by QBCC.

Note that these are occupational licences only. Anyone doing the work will still need to work under an appropriate contractor licence.

The requirement to have these new licences has not commenced yet and commencement is likely to be after the supporting regulations are completed and tabled in Parliament.

Changes to plumbing code

The existing regulations will be replaced with a new code, based on the Australian Plumbing Code with amendments to meet Queensland’s specific technical requirements. This is intended to harmonise Queensland regulations with the regulations in other states.

Changes to approval processes

The new Act divides work into four categories:

  • Permit work – the most complex work, including new installations;

  • Notifiable work – for example, plumbing a new bathroom or kitchen;

  • Minor work – repairing broken pipes, replacing fittings or unblocking drains;

  • Unregulated work – replacing a tap washer.

Each category of work has specific approval and inspection processes. Permit work is what used to be called ‘compliance assessable work’ and the proposed regulation will require that all permit work is inspected for compliance.

Notifiable work will be come under an audit regime, where QBCC will select particular licence holders and will audit them for compliance with the regulations.

An unlicensed person may only carry out unregulated work (but must make sure that any parts, e.g. tap washers, are approved parts).


The Act includes new enforcement provisions that reflect the government’s view that the Act is there to protect public health and safety, and QBCC will be given the powers it needs to enforce it.

Under the new Act, there is no right to silence. QBCC can require an employer or a licence holder to provide information, even if that information incriminates the person ordered to provide it. The information can then be used in proceedings (disciplinary action or criminal prosecution) for offences under the new Act.

The Act also makes it an offence to supervise or carry out plumbing or mechanical services work without the correct licences. The penalties are in three tiers, being:

  • For a first offence, the maximum penalty is 250 penalty units ($32,637.50);

  • For a second offence, the maximum is 300 penalty units ($39,165); and

  • For a third offence, the maximum is 350 penalty units ($45,962.50) or 1 year’s imprisonment.

The regulations which will detail the new licence requirements and support other parts of the Act are due to be tabled shortly. We will update you on these regulations when they are tabled.

For further enquiries on how these changes affect you, please contact us at 07 3128 0120 or

Aitchison Reid Building and Construction
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